For the past years, more and more African-American artists have been making use of African references and symbolism to link back to their roots or to pass strong messages. If these referrences are seen as “trending”, it is important to know more about their meanings and understand the context in which they were/are meant to be used.
African cultures are highly influenced by religions, ancestral beliefs and the relationship ancient and existent communities had/have with nature. All these beliefs are expressed by means of symbols and codes that need to be understood in order to be properly used.
We all remember Beyonce’s performance at the last Grammy’s. She, herself, described it as a tribute to Ọṣun, an African goddess she mentionned several times in her album “lemonade”. Who is this goddess and why was it so relevant for Beyonce to play a tribute to her?
Ọṣun is an orisha, a spirit or deity that reflects one of the manifestations of God in the Ifa and Yoruba religions. These religions were and are still practiced in the Yorubaland (located in and around the actual Nigeria) and travelled to Latin America and the Caribbean’s through the transatlantic slave trade. Therefore, her name varies depending on the region: Oxun, Ọṣun, Oshoun, Oxum, Ochun.
Ọṣun, from the word “orisun”, means “source”in Yoruba. She is the deity of rivers and sweet water, luxury and pleasure, sexuality and fertility, beauty and love. She also represents the perpetually renewing source of life. She is central in the Yoruba belief as she is the first female Orisha sent to earth by Eledumare, the supreme creator.
She is said to have two sisters: Oya, deity of graveyard and Yemana deity of salt water. While Yemaya is represented as a mermaid dressed in blue, Ọṣun is represented sometimes as a woman, sometimes as a mermaid dressed in gold or yellow. She is known to love things made with gold.
Always according to the Yoruba belief, Ọṣun is known to have given birth to the first pair of twins on earth: Ibeji, the orisha of the divine twins.
Beyonce being pregnant of twins, probably decided to show similarities by identifying herself to the Yoruba goddess.
Today, Ọṣun is still honored in Nigeria during the annual Ibo-Osun ceremony. She is the patron of Oṣun River and is also celebrated in Brazil and the Caribbean’s.